Tongue-tied

“The Spirit without the Word and you blow up. The Word without the Spirit and you dry up. But, the Spirit and the Word together and you grow up.” – Adrian Rogers (long-time pastor of First Baptist Church of Memphis, TN)

(by contributing writer Thomas H. Duke [with a few additions by Rachel B. Duke])

In our time, tongues are an extremely (if disproportionately) divisive issue.  I say “disproportionately” because speaking in tongues is really not an important matter at all when considered in relation to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.  I will share with you my primary objections to tongues, as they occur to me.  These objections are inspired by discussions with a godly man in my life, and what many theologians, pastors, and Spirit-filled men over the ages have to say.

But, keep in mind that my treatment here is a summary treatment.  Many capable men have devoted a great deal of time and effort to this issue and written extensively on it.  Overall, I am thoroughly convinced that the issue has been decisively decided against the position of those who advocate speaking in tongues.  Thus, while I am convinced I am right on this, I am not willing to divide with a brother or sister over this issue.  For your part, I encourage you to search the Scripture (especially, 1 Cor. 12 – 14) so that your conviction on this (and every doctrinal issue) is grounded in your considered understanding of God’s Word and not in the opinion of any man.

Here are ten summary objections (not in any particular order of importance) I have to speaking in tongues.  Some are doctrinal/theological. Some are practical.  They do not make an iron-clad case for the cessation of miraculous gifts (I am not going to make that argument here). Rather, they show that the modern practice of speaking in tongues is unscriptural, deeply flawed and erroneous.

1.  Love, not tongues, is the greatest manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s presence and work in the life of a person. (1 Cor. 13:1 – 8 )

2.  Speaking in tongues (and the manifestation of any other “miraculous” gift) may or may not be a sign of a person’s salvation.  In other words, a person may speak in tongues and not be saved.  (Matthew 7:21-23)

[These first two points are very significant to me, because proponents of tongue-speaking present speaking in tongues as (i) the greatest manifestation of the Holy Spirit's presence in a person's life and as a sure-fire sign of salvation.  They are wrong on both counts].

3.  Speaking in tongues is not the mark of a “second blessing,” the additional “baptism of the Spirit” or entrance into a higher form of Christianity.  All true Christians are baptized in the Holy Spirit.  (1 Cor. 12:13)

4.  Not all Christians did or will in this age speak in tongues.

5.  Based on church history alone and the testimony of many, many godly men, speaking in tongues has largely, if not completely, ceased. Most godly men and theologians concur that speaking in tongues died with the apostles. And there is evidence to this end….as in 2,000 years of it. Look at St. Augustine, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, etc. They never spoke in tongues and yet they were more Spirit-filled and godlier than you and I can ever expect to be in this lifetime.

6.  Those who practice speaking in tongues do not abide by Scriptural directions.  (1 Cor. 14:22)  For example, tongues are allegedly spoken in public worship without the presence of an interpreter, which Scripture calls for (1 Cor. 14:27).  Also, women, according to the Apostle Paul, are NOT permitted to speak in tongues in the public worship.  (1 Cor. 14:26, 34)

7.  It appears that those who advocate speaking in tongues ignore or downplay practical godliness.  This is often associated with a disregard of biblical doctrine and a de-emphasis of the word of God.

8.  Speaking in tongues often displaces the word of God and, thus, the main emphasis and teaching of the word of God, as primary in the lives and worship of those who claim to practice it.

9.  Speaking in tongues, I would argue, is similar to other forms of public worship that become customary in a congregation or denomination.  People “speak in tongues” because it is expected, encouraged, cultivated, like the raising of hands or rhythmic swaying to music.  In other words, if you are told that the “sign” of your salvation is speaking in tongues and everyone around you is speaking in tongues, you are going to make unintelligible noises along with everyone else in order to fit in and be accepted by them.  Thus, it appears that many instances of “speaking in tongues” has nothing at all to do with the Holy Spirit, but with human production.  I say this, not based on speculation, but on the report of many people who have come out of this practice.

10.  I doubt speaking in tongues was as universal in the first century church as proponents of speaking in tongues claim.  Paul expressly deals only with the Corinthian church on this issue.  That means either that the other churches under his care were not (routinely) speaking in tongues or that it was not a problem for them.  I tend to think the first explanation is the correct one, i.e., the other churches were not (routinely) speaking in tongues.

Now while these matters are interesting, never, never, never, lose sight of the “main thing.”  The main thing the word of God emphasizes is the glory of God in the salvation of sinners through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Perhaps, then, an 11th objection to tongues is that is stokes people’s pride and is so blasted self-centered and self-exalting.

And that’s a wrap, folks. Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Shalom,

Rachel B. Duke